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Directed by Thorold Dickinson (The Queen of Spades), JAVA HEAD is a tragic melodrama of interracial love. The beautiful Anna May Wong plays a Chinese princess who follows her new husband Gerrit, a young Englishman from a wealthy shipping family, back to 19th Century Bristol. The husband’s conservative family is scandalised by the arrival of his bride, whose sensational clothing and make-up stands in stark contrast to the restrained Victorian setting. They refuse to accept the stranger, preferring that Gerrit rekindle the courtship of Nettie, a local girl.
A young Englishman abroad, Michael, visits the low-life spot of Tiger Bay to test his assertion that the spirit of human romance survives even in the most unpromising of circumstances. He intervenes when a local criminal protection racketeer targets a Chinese nightclub, and falls in love with the owner’s young English foster-sister. But Olaf’s gang have only just stared their campaign against Lui Chang (Anna May Wong), the cultured, elegant woman who owns the premises... and she is determined not to be intimidated or driven out of business under any circumstances...